Noho Banjo and Ukulele Musings–“Ja-Da”


“Ja-Da (Ja Da, Ja Da, Jing, Jing, Jing!)“—found in our Yellow Book—was written in 1918 by a piano player, Bob Carleton (1894-1956), while he was serving in the US Navy during World War I. 

He was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, just north of Chicago, and performed with a trio on the base and in local bars. 

The simple tune became a jazz standard over the years and was recorded by just about every performer from that day to this—a simple 16-bar tune with a long, long life.    

In his definitive American Popular Songs, Alec Wilder writes about the song’s simplicity: “It fascinates me that such a trifling tune could have settled into the public consciousness as “Ja-Da” has. Of course, it’s bone simple and the lyric says almost nothing.  Perhaps the explanation of its success lies in the lyric itself—”That’s a funny little bit of melody—it’s soothing and appealing to me.” It’s cute, it’s innocent, and it’s “soothing.” And, wonderfully enough, the only other statement the lyric makes is “Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Jing, Jing, Jing.”  There are, however, more verses!

Sheet Music Verses:

Here it is again but this time for we Ukers!


Carlton went on to be a prolific songwriter/performer and published over 500 songs.  He wrote ditties like “Teasin'”, “I’ve Spent the Evening in Heaven”, “I’ve Got to Break Myself of You”, and “Where the Blues Were Born in New Orleans.” 

 Ever hear any of these?  Thought not.  But, just for fun, here is Carlton himself at what he describes as his “Bar Room Baldwin”

Bob Carlton, Ragtime Piano:

At least we and the rest of the musical world still have “Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Ja-Da, Jing, Jing, Jing!”  A simple song by a sailor.

Stay Tuned!

Author: NohoBanjo of Northampton and, now, Easthampton, Mass.

Hi friends, neighbors, and fellow strummers. These “musings” are based on my interest and study of Banjo and Ukulele history, lore, and music. My goal is to both educate and enlighten by sharing what I have learned within a broad musical and historical context—with honesty and, at times, a bit of humor. Needless to say, your thoughts and comments are, as always, welcome.

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